100 Bullets #31: Now we're talking. Kicking off a new arc, "The Counterfifth Detective," this issue is pure hard-boiled pulp noir gold. Main character Milo Garrett sounds like every classic P.I. rolled into one, and he looks tough as nails, too, with his crumpled suit, bandage-covered face, and the cigarette that's pretty much always hanging out of his mouth. Both Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso do a good job of keeping this story right in the sweet spot, not over-the-top with the clichés but still very much utilizing the tropes of the genre. Milo is both likable and a schmuck; there's drinking, murder, intrigue, and plenty of stylized, metaphor-and-similie-filled narration. It's all quite familiar, but fresh enough to pull the reader in, and the added detail of Agent Graves giving Milo one of the attaché cases that he's been handing out since this series began makes things that much more interesting. There's not a ton of narrative meat on the bones so far, because this first chapter is more about introducing Milo and getting us in his corner. In that, it's a major success, and there's enough of a story hook at the very end to bring people back for more. This is the sort of finely crafted issue that 100 Bullets was full of at first, but that's been missing for a while, so it ended up being a fabulous return to form that reignited my enthusiasm for this title.
Automatic Kafka #7: Automatic Kafka goes out to lunch with one of his old supervillain foes, Galaxia, a scientist who replaced his head with a tiny spiral galaxy. Kafka has a good deal of leftover animosity toward Galaxia, but the former bad guy is ever the gentleman, politely and intelligently talking Kafka into letting go of their shared past. They even manage to reminisce a little together, and though they don't exactly become friends, they pretty much bury the hatchet before their meal is over. It's impressive how Joe Casey manages to write their conversation so that the reader can be genuinely invested in them working things out, even though we haven't ever seen any of their previous conflicts, since they all took place in an off-panel time period. The hero-villain dynamic is so universally accessible, Casey can do something like this even in a brand new continuity and it still works. It helps that both Kafka and Galaxia have such strong voices, of course, and that they each have such fascinating looks. Even their speech bubbles are different colors, not just from one another but from everybody else, so their exchange offers something on every level, from script to art to letters. This was not the most exciting issue of Automatic Kafka, but it was one of the most thoughtful examinations of what life might be like for a retired superhero like Kafka, and it had a lot of heart and humor along the way. Also, in the end, the Warning uses Galaxia to power up a bunch of the baby bombs that have been an ongoing thread in this book, which was a nice way to conclude this, tying an otherwise isolated chapter into what's come before.
The Maximortal #1: I just wrote about this issue a couple weeks ago as part of a PopMatters column on three of my favorite debut issues. And in the early days of this blog, a did a short post on the whole of this series. But I wanted to do it for Monthly Dose because its a dense book, and every issue sort of touches on a different aspect of the Superman mythology and/or history, deconstructing that character, superheroes as an idea, and the comicbook industry as a whole. It's an ambitious, weird, well-done passion project from Rick Veitch. This first issue doesn't actually set up that much of what's to come, focusing instead of doing Veitch's version of the Superman (or True-Man, as he's called in this comic) origin story. A couple named the Winstons finds a baby boy inside a bizarre fallen meteorite, and they try to raise him as their own, but his superpowers make him well more than they can handle. The child destroys their house with his strength and heat vision, bites of his adopted father's finger, and in the end he uses the threat of further violence to get his dad to carry him away from the farm and into an unknown future. It's a much more brutal, darkly comedic take on this well-known superhero story, casting Superman as something of a menace, but only because he's too young to know or even want to use his abilities responsibly. He's just a kid throwing superpowered tantrums that his simpleton parents have no way of controlling, so he ruins their lives and takes over. The events of the story are pretty tragic, but Veitch's art and the exaggerated, caricature-like personalities of the Winstons make it work as parody, too, so we get both a funnier and a much bleaker version of Superman at once. That's the mission statement of The Maximortal, and it couldn't be clearer here.